Are you buying a kitchen knife, a camping/hunting knife, or an EDC? If you want something that works well to suit your needs, then you have got to first check out what steel is used for the knife you’re thinking about buying.
It can lead to a lot of frustration if it uses the wrong steel for your purposes, but a good one can give you many years of usefulness.
There are actually quite a lot of different types of steel out there. Even the term “stainless steel” isn’t quite specific enough.
Iron can be mixed with many other different elements, and the recipes for each type of steel can be subtly different from one another. The elements in the mix, along with their precise percentages, determine the main characteristics of the steel alloy.
Which leads us to 14c28n steel. If you see that the knife blade is made from 14c28n steel, is it any good? We need to take a closer look to answer this question. Of course, the more accurate question is: will a knife made with 14c28n steel be good for you?
What is 14c28n Steel?
14c28n steel is actually a type of stainless steel, meaning it resists corrosion quite nicely. It’s actually an alloy recently developed by Sandvik, which is a company based in Sweden. They basically upgraded their 13C26 with this newer alloy.
Kershaw Knives actually requested Sandvik to make the 13C26 much more corrosion-resistant. For a few years after Sandvik came up with the 14c28n steel, Kershaw was the exclusive buyer of the steel.
Sandvik considers this one of their top grades of knife steel, as it offers an excellent performance when it comes to the hardness, edge, and resistance to corrosion.
They also made it easier to work with, which is a big deal. This enables them to manufacture the steel efficiently, so that they don’t have to cost too much during the production process. Those savings are then passed on to the buyers of the knives, who won’t have to pay overly premium prices for premium performance.
This means the knives made from this steel aren’t all that expensive for the most part. Of course, they’re not extremely cheap like some throwaway, no-name knives, either. You just get great value for your money.
You can get a really sharp knife with 14c28n steel (as in extremely sharp), but the knife edge doesn’t dull too quickly compared to other steels that can also be this sharp.
14c28n Steel Chemical Composition
To better understand how well the steel works, it’s best to look more closely at the recipe followed to produce the alloy. The elements picked to mix with the steel, along with precisely how much of each element is put in, can determine the kind of performance you can expect from a 14c28n steel knife.
- Chromium, 14%
- Carbon, 0.62%
- Nitrogen, 0.11%
- Manganese, 0.6%
- Silicon, 0.2%
- Phosphorus, 0.025%
- Sulfur, 0.01%
Here are the most notable elements in the mix for 14c28n steel, along with the precise percentages.
Chromium, 14%: That’s a lot of chromium. Chromium is what’s mixed in to the steel to make it more resistant to corrosion. In fact, a steel isn’t considered stainless steel at all if it doesn’t have at least 10% chromium in its makeup. With 14% chromium, it’s well above the minimum requirement.
Carbon, 0.62%: It’s the presence of carbon here that helps to determine the level of the steel hardness (though it also helps with corrosion resistance). In this case, it’s not really all that much compared to what you may find in other hard steels. In fact, this contains less carbon than the 13C26 it was based on.
The lower carbon isn’t really a bad thing, because too much carbon can definitely be a bad thing. It’s long been known that too much carbon (and therefor high hardness levels) also leads to a lot of brittleness. In practical terms, using a type of steel with a lot of carbon increases the risk of chipping. You don’t want to use a very hard knife blade to pry something open.
Nitrogen, 0.11%: This, too, helps with its strength. That is, it reduces the chances of the steel chipping. Also, experts found out that the addition of the nitrogen here can really enhance the corrosion resistance.
Manganese, 0.6%: Manganese also contributes to the hardness of the metal, and its presence here is one of the reasons why 14c28n steel is harder than a lot of steels out there. Again, you don’t want too much of it, to guard against brittleness.
Silicon, 0.2%: Yes, it’s another strength-enhancing component. The little bit of silicon here helps, but shouldn’t add too much to the brittleness.
Phosphorus, 0.025%: This also helps to counteract the risk of brittleness that comes with the hardness of the steel.
Sulfur, 0.01%: Whenever you find sulfur in the mix, it’s mostly about enhancing the machinability of the steel. This means making it easier to work with, so that the production is smooth and cost-efficient. Also, the sulfur helps the knife manufacturers to get you a really sharp edge right out of the box.
14c28n Steel Hardness
The hardness of the 14c28n steel depends greatly on the heat treatment and other factors used. Brands may use different treatments to come up with different hardness levels. Most of the time, however, you can expect the HRC rating of 14c28n steel to set within a range of 55 to 62 HRC.
Most kitchen knives tend to fall within the range of 52 to 60 HRC, so the 14c28n steel is harder than usual. The 14c28n steel is also generally harder than your usual everyday pocket knife, as a good EDC knife usually has a hardness level of 57 to 59 HRC.
That hardness range of 55-62 HRC makes this steel quite versatile, as it can be used for many types of knives. You can find this steel in everyday pocket knives, chef’s knives, and hunting knives. It works well for fishing, too, though that’s also because of the excellent corrosion resistance.
Some other steels are even harder than 14c28n steel, but that comes with a performance drawback. Often, these harder steels are also more brittle, so they tend to chip more frequently. Since you want to avoid that, the 55-62 HRC makes for a very nice “sweet spot” for many knife users.
Properties of 14c28n Steel
Here are some of the properties you should expect from 14c28n steel:
Pretty Good Edge Retention
A lot of 14c28n steel knives come out of the box with a wickedly sharp edge, and they remain sharp for quite a while.
We cut spirals using a 14c28n steel knife through heavy cardboard postal mailing tubes, and each one was 2.5 feet long. After spiraling through 10 tubes, the edge was still sharp enough to shave hair on our arms.
After 20 tubes, the edge couldn’t shave hair anymore. But it’s still able to slice through paper without any trouble.
It took about 34 tubes to dull the edge of the knife, enough that it started to tear the paper instead of slicing through it cleanly.
Easy to Sharpen
It’s really not too hard at all, so it doesn’t take much to give another razor’s edge to your 14c28n steel blade.
Despite the relative hardness of the 14c28n steel (which explains the edge retention), it still offers impressive flexibility. It’s not too brittle, considering how hard it really is.
We tested the blades by stabbing them through tin cans, and then we hammered it through a 0.5mm-density stainless steel sheet. The 14c28n steel didn’t roll or chip, though the test did blunt the point somewhat.
The hardness of the 14c28n steel also promises that you’ll be able to use the knife for a long while.
After the flexibility test (tin can stabbing then hammering), we then kept on throwing the steel into seasoned wood. We kept on doing this for more than 10 minutes, and the 14c28n steel was okay afterwards.
Since the 14c28n steel was actually designed with this goal in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s quite corrosion-resistant.
We put the blades in a pail of saltwater, and kept them there for about 4 days. Afterwards, you still can’t see any hint of corrosion at all.
14c28n Equivalent Steels or Alternative
How does the 14c28n steel compare with other types of steel? Here’s a direct comparison between 14c28n steel and the other notable steels out there.
14c28n vs D2 Steel
The D2 steel compares nicely with 14c28n steel in terms of edge retention, as it’s quite hard as well. In many cases, the D2 edge sharpness may last a bit longer.
D2 steel also offers similar toughness levels as the 14c28n steel, so both aren’t really prone to chipping with proper use.
However, the 14c28n steel is easier to sharpen when it gets dull. You won’t spend as much time sharpening the 14c28n steel.
Also, 14c28n steel is a lot more resistant to corrosion. If you’re going to use a knife for a fishing trip, you’re better off with the 14c28n steel than with the D2.
14c28n vs AUS 8 Steel
These are both regarded as upper mid-range steels, so they should offer comparable value. They tend to retain their knife edges similarly, though the 14c28n steel may do a bit better here.
14c28n steel is a lot more resistant to corrosion, which makes it a better option for wet work.
However, though 14c28n steel is also easy to sharpen, the AUS 8 is a lot easier in this regard. You can sharpen the AUS 8 very quickly, and you can give it a razor edge as well.
14c28n vs S30v Steel
The S30V is widely regarded as premium steel, so it’s quite more expensive than the 14c28n steel. But if you’re willing to pay more, then you might like the S30V.
The S30V is notably better at retaining its sharp edge, so you won’t have to sharpen your knife too frequently.
It’s also even a little bit more corrosion-resistant, though the 14c28n steel isn’t bad either.
But the 14c28n steel is also easier to sharpen, which means you won’t take too much time and effort fixing the edge up when it gets dull.
14c28n vs VG10 Steel
The VG10 steel is considered one of the “high-end” steels, so it’s a bit higher in status than the 14c28n steel. That usually means it’s more expensive, but you get a lot for your money.
With the VG10, you get better edge retention, so again the 14c28n steel will dull a bit more quickly. The V10 is even a bit more corrosion-resistant than the 14c28n steel, though both don’t rust all that easily.
However, both perform nicely and similarly when it comes to sharpening your blade.
14c28n vs 8cr13mov Steel
These 2 steels are also part of the upper-midrange class. They should come at similar prices.
When it comes to ease of sharpening, the 8cr13mov wins handily though the 14c28n steel is also better than average for this factor.
However, the 14c28n steel retains its sharp edge a bit better. Also, the 14c28n steel is a lot more resistant to corrosion. You don’t really want to use an 8cr13mov knife in wet environments (like fishing trips).
14c28n vs 440c Steel
Again, these 2 steels should come with similar prices as they’re part of the upper mid-range.
They both perform well, and they’re equal in terms of edge retention and ease of sharpening.
It’s with corrosion resistance that 14c28n is clearly better. While the 440c is also a type of stainless steel, the 14c28n simply resists corrosion better.
Is 14c28n Steel Good for Knives?
The short answer is yes. This is the sort of knife you’d want if you need a knife for chef’s knives, everyday knives, and fishing knives.
It offers terrific edge performance, as it can be extremely sharp and remain that way for a while. When it does get blunt, it’s no trouble to resharpen.
It can last against wear and tear nicely, and it’s not as brittle as you’d expect given its relative hardness. Add the terrific corrosion-resistance, and it’s a fantastic all-rounder that you can use indoors and outdoors.
Pros & Cons of 14c28n Steel
Best 14c28n Stainless Steel Knives
#1: Kershaw Blur, Black Serrated (1670BLKST)
- Overall Length: 7.875″
- Blade Length: 3.375″
- Blade Thickness: 0.12″
- Edge Type: Serrated
- Handle Length: 4.50″
- Weight: 4.25 oz
Obviously, we have to mention the Kershaw brand, as it’s the most famous user of the 14c28n steel.
This Blur is a folding knife, with a blade length of 3⅜ inches. The overall length is 7⅞ inches, but it’s only 4½ inches long when folded.
The slightly recurved blade performs nicely, as it works for both slicing and piercing. The blade also has a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating for additional corrosion resistance.
The handle is made from tough aircraft-grade aluminum, and it is even scratch-resistant. The handle doesn’t weigh much at all, and the overall weight of the knife is 3.9 ounces.
With the SpeedSafe assisted opening, you can open this easily enough with one hand. It opens so easily and quickly, which is why it’s called the Blur.
The Trac-Tec grip-tape handle inserts then gives you a secure hold on the handle.
#2: Kershaw Knockout Olive Black Pocket Knife 187OLBLK
- Blade Length: 3.25″. (8.3 cm)
- Blade Finish/Coating: Cerakote
- Blade Thickness: 0.121 ” (3 mm)
- Closed Length: 4.6″ (11.7 cm)
- Handle Material: 6061-T6 aluminum
- Handle Finish/Coating: Olive anodized
- Handle Thickness: 0.41″. (10.4 mm)
- Overall Length: 7.9″ (20 cm)
- Weight: 3.4 oz. (96.4 g)
Kershaw calls this their “extreme tactical multi-use blade”. It’s called the Knockout because there’s a portion of the aluminum handle knocked out of the design. Removing this portion reduces the weight, while you get a more secure grip in wet or muddy conditions.
You also get the SpeedSafe Assisted Opening here, while the Sub-Frame Lock supports the frame nicely. You’re better able to use the knife for cutting harder stuff like bone, branches, and plastic piping.
The drop point blade is just 3¼ inches long, while the whole knife is 7⅞ inches long. The handle is 4⅝ inches long, so it’s possible to carry this around in your pocket.
You do get the new deep-carry clip, so you can carry it 4 ways: left or right-handed, and tip-up or tip-down.
#3: Ruike P801 Tactical Pocket Knife
- Overall length: 200 mm / 7.87″
- Closed length: 114 mm / 4.49″
- Blade Length: 88mm/3.46″
- Blade thickness: 3.1 mm / 0.12″
- Weight: 120 g / 4.23 oz
- Blade material: 14C28N
- Handle material: 3Cr14N
Yep, these days Sandvik supplies the 14c28n steel to other brands. Ruike maintained its hardness to within 68-60 HRC, so it’s hard without being too hard (and brittle).
The blade is about 3.46 inches long, with a width of 0.12 (3mm). The whole knife is 7⅞ inches long when open, but when closed it reduces to just 4.5 inches. It’s not too heavy, but it offers a nice heft with a weight of 4.3 ounces.
Open it up, and the frame lock keeps it open without any give. It offers a solid feel with solid performance, and it’s a terrific all-rounder for indoor and outdoor use.
How to Sharpen 3cr13 Stainless Steel Knives
Generally speaking, 14c28n steel are great. While they’re a bit more expensive than your usual knives out there, they offer terrific value for money.
If you want a long-lasting knife you can use for just about anything, you can do worse than pick a 14c28n steel knife.